Knysna - Garden Route

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Golf director & Head pro: Jamie Kietzmann
Assistant pro: Janco Combrinck
Greenkeeper: Du Toit Maree
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 75 out of 100
Conditioning14.7 / 20
Playability14.5 / 20
Aesthetics13.3 / 15
Design Variety11.2 / 15
Shot Values10.8 / 15
Memorability10.5 / 15

Course Summary

Four tees / Par 72

Yellow 6401 metres, CR73.7/136
White 5349 metres, CR71.7/136
Blue 5463 metres, CR69.2/125
Red 4819 metres, CR65.4/114
Women’s blue, CR74.7/132
Women’s red, CR70.2/123

Visitor green fee

June 1 to September 30
Affiliated R720; Non-affiliated R850
Includes golf cart and halfway house
Peak season
R1190 & R1490

Course designer

Jack Nicklaus 2005


044 302 9677

Previous ranking


Simola is a spellbinding Jack Nicklaus signature design high in the hills above the Garden Route town of Knysna. The hotel buildings stand high on a ridge overlooking the course, with views of the Knysna Lagoon.

Simola is on such undulating terrain that golf carts are essential. They are included in the green fee. Walking the course is not easy because of some of the distances between green and tee. There’s a steep, twisting cart path with hairpin bends leading down from the pro shop to the first and tenth tees, and another long climb from the first green to the second tee. The high ridge framing the property splits the course into two distinct parts. There are 12 holes in the area below the hotel, and another six in a separate valley. 

Nicklaus designed five par 5s and five par 3s. Even with all the uphill and downhill holes, Nicklaus has cleverly achieved a course where you seldom have an uneven lie.

The short holes are a feature of the layout, testing a wide range of clubs in the bag from a fairway metal at No 6 to a wedge at No 17. The par 5s are excellent, beginning with the switchback opening hole which must be one of the most challenging on the course. Three of the par 5s are played to elevated greens, and these are tough targets to hit, even with a short pitch.

The clubhouse is part of the main hotel area, and the bar on the upper floor has an outstanding view of the course below.

Additional Course Facts

Course Record

61 by Brandon Cloete, 2010 club champs;
Caylum Boon, 2017 Simola Open;
George Coetzee, 2019 Vodacom Origins Final.

Feature Holes

With all the elevation changes at Simola the result is several exciting tee shots from high vantage points, notably the par-4 second where the tee is more than 100 metres above the fairway, the long par-3 sixth, with its magnificent views over the Knysna River, and the par-4 eighth. The par-4 13th is a superb downhill hole with the green tucked away at the bottom of an attractive vale.


The Simola Hotel & Spa has accommodation for 160, a bistro-style restaurant, a spa, gym, indoor and outdoor pools. There’s a conference centre, and guests can hire mountain bikes to explore trails in the area. There are 40 two-bedroom suites a short walk from the hotel with their own lounge, kitchen and covered patio with gas braai. The hotel is six kilometres from the centre of Knysna.

Practice Facility

An excellent short-game area, with two practice greens, alongside the 13th hole, which can be reached by cart. The teaching pro is Jamie Kietzmann.

Club Champions

2020 Damian Osner & Sunette Venter
2019 Damian Osner & Ann Curling
*Osner has won three years in a row

Did You Know

1/ The road up the steep hill to the Simola Hotel is the venue for three days in May each year for one of the motoring calendar’s most popular events, the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb. There’s always a great parade of classic and vintage cars on view, plus some souped-up machines. The record time is 35.528 seconds, not much longer than the hang time on a drive from the elevated second tee at Simola.

2/ The Sunshine Tour has visited Simola often as a venue for its Vodacom Origins pro-am tournaments.

3/ George Coetzee opened with 61 (32-29; 2 eagles 7 birdies) to win 2019 Vodacom Origins Final. In 2016 Origins, Ockie Strydom closed with 61 to finish second behind Justin Harding. It did not equal course record as some forward tees were used. Ryan Cairns shot 62 in 2012 Origins final round – six birdies in last seven holes – and beat Vaughn Groenewald in a playoff.

4/ Simola should have been the first Jack Nicklaus signature course in Africa. He first visited the site in 1995 when it was being developed by Ola Grinaker, but heavy rains in 1996 washed the topsoil from the shaped holes into the ecologically-sensitive Knysna Lagoon. The course was abandoned and a year later the estate liquidated. Fortunately the project was revived in the new millennium by the Kat Leisure Group, under CEO Avril Kaschula.

5/ Golf Digest named Simola Best New Course in 2005.

Course and Facilities Rating
Conditioning Ratings
Overall Conditioning
Facility Ratings
Pace of Play
Practice Range
Halfway House
Pro Shop
Locker Room
19th Hole
Course Etiquette
Course Reviews
The course has become damp and muddy as we enter winter, so it is playing long and divots are deep. Best to tee off later in the day when it's warm, not first thing in the morning! The long opening par 5 hole is particularly slushy, which makes it an even tougher proposition than it usually is. I was surprised to see golf carts allowed on the fairways as there are steep slopes leading off the cart paths, and there were serious skid marks everywhere from carts attempting to climb back up the slopes. The greens remain superb, and are a feature of this memorable layout.
Thomas Souness
22 May 2021
Simola is a fantastic experience and while the course sees a lot of traffic, once you tee off on the first you get the sense you are out on your own, with wide fairways and established trees framing many holes. The course was wet when we played it, making it longer than usual on the front nine. But once the sun came out and the course had dried out, it was transformed into a ball striker's heaven. Simola requires good shots, and the undulating fairways reward position off the tee. I was impressed with the conditioning all round. As always the staff at the estate and golf course were amazing.
Chris Wood
09 May 2021
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10 out of 10 for this spectacular layout and course. Conditioning at its peak most of the year.
Sandor Kovacs
06 April 2021
Simola is looking in great shape following good rains and well looked after.
James Thom
20 December 2020
Course is in a wonderful condition and the greens are superb.
Willem van der Merwe
18 November 2020

Simola offers one of the most challenging bunker experiences the average golfer will face on a South African golf course. They get into your head as early as the second hole, and defend this layout immensely well. The creatively designed Jack Nicklaus bunker complexes are a magnificent feature, and only by managing to avoid them will you get the better of this scenic wonder. There are close to 100 bunkers and they are spacious and deep. Crucially, they come into play on so many holes, both off the tee and around the greens, that you need to have the management skills to shape your shots past them. My favourite complex is the large expanse of sand which intimidatingly fronts the par-5 12th green like the barrier of a fortress. And a similar challenge awaits at the uphill par-5 15th. Your heart is in your mouth as you watch your approach shots attempt to scale them.

Stuart McLean
18 October 2020
Simola is a spectacular course to play. Sadly the bunkers, a major feature of this Nicklaus course, were in variable condition. Some with soft thick sand and others with so little sand that playing a successful bunker shot was near impossible.
Ponky Firer
04 October 2020
World-class course; great design variety and aesthetically easy on the eye. Some tough holes and challenging approaches. A great course to test your golfing skills.
Sandor Kovacs
22 April 2020
Wonderful layout, beautiful views! The course was perfect, particularly the greens.
Steve Tredoux
27 March 2020
Very good Nicklaus signature course, with spectacular views and elevation changes. Great design variety, making it an interesting and testing course to play. Condition usually outstanding.
Ivan Palframan
19 February 2020
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